“Hello, down there!” I remember saying this the first time I looked at myself with a hand mirror. My older sister, who was in medical school at the time, was teaching me the basic anatomy of my “down there” because I was insistent on using a tampon for an upcoming pool party at my friend’s house.
Five months before this moment, I was in Thailand with my grandmother attending the wedding of an exchange student, Land, who lived with her for a few years. I assume it was because of my age at the time (13th birthday) and the major shift in climate that my menstrual cycle decided to arrive for the first time. It was a hot muggy day in the middle of a 9-hour road trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai when we had to stop at the rest stop, which included a messier-than-a-porta-potty hole in the floor. I remember the embarrassment of not only having to tell my grandmother the “big news” but also the large extended family of Land. I remember having to unpack the over-packed vehicles to find my suitcase for a change of clothes because my pants got soaked in that nasty puddle in the bathroom. I begged my grandmother to buy me the tampons, but she wouldn’t have it. She said it was “unnatural” for young girls to “stick things down there”. So, the heavy flow continued and it was the longest, hottest, messiest drive of my life. Nevertheless, there was an incredibly gorgeous and breath-taking Buddha at the top of the mountain where we stayed that night, and something about the prayer bells and peaceful energy of the monasteries helped me find my peace with the situation.
Me and my grandmother on our way to Thailand
Fast-forward to the anatomy lesson with my sister, I felt lucky to have a sister, let alone one in medical school and on her way to becoming an OB-Gyn, and willing to teach me something I didn’t really want to learn from anyone else. We didn’t have social media or fast internet back then. I had secretly read some of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” with a flashlight late at night that I found on my mom’s bookshelf a few times, but it didn’t teach me how to use a tampon. I had full confidence my sister could save me from having to go through another experience like the one in the middle-of-nowhere Thailand! In a very clinical way, she used the end of the tampon applicator to point to and name all of the parts down there: labia majora and labia minora, clitoris and clitoral hood, urethra, vagina, and anus. She taught me how to pull the bottom of the vaginal opening towards the perineum (the space between the vagina and the anus) to help the muscles relax and help the door to the vagina open a little easier. Before we tried to enter, she said, “now talk to your body. Tell it what you want it to do and that it’s safe. We can take the tampon out if she doesn’t like it.” I remember the moment she referred to it as a separate being – she referred to it as a “she”. “The body has a mind of its own sometimes,” she said. She showed me how to angle the tampon towards my back because of the “curve” of the birth canal. With a little help of some olive oil, it slid right in and I was ready for the pool party.
From that day on, I practiced dialoguing with my body. I had talked to my body before that moment, but it usually wasn’t kind or conversational. It would be five years later until I learned a few different ways to dialogue with the body, thanks to Eve Ensler’s workshops and her “Vagina Monologues” performance. Participating in this production at Lehigh University provided an introduction to women’s circles and sharing experiences about our bodies, how we talk to our bodies, and the healing power that can come with that process. (If you have never seen a production of “The Vagina Monologues,” I highly recommend it. Eve Ensler changed my life for the better, and it was an amazing opportunity to meet her in New Orleans for her workshop at Tulane University. During that workshop she had us write out a script with our vaginas and then share the experience in small groups. I was in awe listening to the diversity of stories that came out of the vaginas in the room. It was in that moment that it occurred to me how the body knows the answer of what we need to heal in order for the body to heal. BOOM – my passion for women’s workshops, encouraging dialogue with the body, and healing the mind-body connection was born.
Photos from meeting Eve Ensler in 2008
My new book, “Hello, Down There” guides you through a variety of ways you can dialogue with your body to discover the thoughts, memories, feelings, and sensations that need to be addressed in order to heal chronic pain, especially pelvic and sexual pain. If you’ve never done this, try it out! You can talk to your body in the mirror or with a written script. Either way, let the conversation flow and don’t overthink it. Just notice what comes up for you, without judgment, and with the intention of approaching the dialogue with compassionate curiosity. For best results, listen to bilateral stimulation music during the process to help your brain process the information and keep the nervous system calm. Comment below on what the experience was like for you!
If you’re having a hard time getting the conversation started, I’ve put together a sample script that can help you get started. Contact me for access to the Dialogue with Your Body exercise. You can use the contact form on this website, send me a DM on Instagram.